SPEKE, John Hanning (1827-1864). Autograph letter signed to 'Dear Sir' [Dr John Kirk], n.p., '16th' [November 1863], on ivory paper, 4 pages, 8vo (traces of guard at right hand edge on last page); and Joseph WOLFF (1795-1862). Autograph letter signed to 'Mrs Colonel Low', Isle Brewers, Langport, Somersetshire, 8 November 1850, 3 pages, 8vo (light staining and small tear in 2nd leaf).
Speke writes of his wishes for the disposal of his collection of shells. The British Museum is 'to have one specimen of every variety' and 'To the Taunton Museum I wish to give the second set as They have devoted a whole room to my collection'. Some may go to Dr Dohrn for the trouble he has taken. 'I did not mix any Kingami shells with Nile shells. There are no V[ictoria] N'yanza shells, though a few were picked up in the Little Windermere Lake in Kanagué and the same again I found in the Nile'.
Speke had discovered four varieties of previously unknown shells on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and later added many more to his collection. They were identified by the British Museum, and included in an exhibition at the Zoological Society when he lectured there in 1859. The present letter sets out what were to be his final wishes for their disposal. 'Dr Dohrn' is probably Wolfgang Ludwig Dohrn, a marine biologist at Berlin.
Wolff recalls a 'beautiful edition' of Firdausi given him by Mrs Low's husband at Lucknow, and writes of his neighbours, the Speke family including William Speke of Jordans and his wife [the parents of John Hanning Speke], 'the most amiable, hospitable and kindhearted people you can imagine!', recommending their son Edward, currently in Bengal, as aide de camp to Colonel Low, or for a post at Agra. Edward Speke (1828-1858), John Hanning Speke's younger brother and the third of William's four sons, had joined the East India Company's army on the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington. He was killed at Lucknow.
Joseph Wolff, a German Jew who became a Roman Catholic and, on coming to England in 1819, a member of the Anglican church, served as a missionary to the Jews in the East. In 1843 he boldly undertook to travel to Bokhara to discover the fate of Conolly and Stoddart, describing his adventures in Mission to Bokhara (1845). For some years before his death he was vicar of Isle Brewers in Somerset.